Monday, June 8, 2009
Ambigous Parking Signage in WeHo Looks Like a Ticket Trap
There is an alley just north of Melrose Avenue between San Vicente Drive and Robertson Drive in West Hollywood. The alley is located behind several design showrooms and West Hollywood Park. What makes this alley special and beloved by locals (no, not that alley), is that it boasts a line of that most invaluable of Southern California's urban commodities--parking spaces.
Saturday, June 6, some friends and I drove to WeHo for an event near Robertson and Melrose. I found a single parking spot open in the Melrose-adjacent alley and parked.
But one of my passengers noticed something new. The curb had recently been painted red. There was no indication other than the brand-new, red-painted curb that anything else had changed in the alley.
Admittedly, a red curb might be enough to signal parking was no longer allowed. However, the were still dozens of signs--both signs mounted on tall poles over the alley, and smaller signs mounted on poles where there had once been meters--that indicated a four-hour time limit for parking.
Further complicating the matter was the fact that there were temporary plastic signs, many of which had fallen to the ground, that read "temporary: no parking 6/5/09." This was the 6th. The signs said "temporary no parking" for the previous day.
In addition, there were about three dozen or more cars parked in the alley without tickets.
Keep in mind, this is an area dense with restaurants, bars, a civic auditorium, a busy urban park, several community meeting facilities, and the largest design center west of the Mississippi. Needless to say, finding parking can be a nightmare.
Nevertheless, I left the parking spot and found another--four blocks south on Robertson in Beverly Hills, another city altogether--because I really don't like getting parking tickets. (I know, who does?)
It would have been a $70 ticket. I know because we saw one unfortunate driver's SUV sporting a "parking in a red zone" citation on his or her window.
Safely parked, I wanted to know if the situation was an oversight, and if informed, would the authorities do something to remedy the confusion.
I went to the Sheriff's station across the street and got a very snippy, sarcastic non-answer from a volunteer at the counter. Begrudgingly, I was given the after-hours phone number to West Hollywood Parking Enforcement. The shift supervisor on duty when I called at 6:55 p.m. listened to my description of the situation, which I delivered in much the same way via phone as I have here.
I asked if he planned to enforce the red zone on all of the drivers who had obviously been confused by the ambiguous signage, or wait to start ticketing after the incorrect signs were removed.
He said (and this is a quote): "If they're in a red zone, they will be cited."
But, I insisted, obviously there was confusion, and to penalize people who, during the Great Recession, were dining out and contributing to the local economy in other ways, and had parked in a place known to be legal for years, smacked of revenue-motivated entrapment.
I then informed him that I was no longer speaking as a concerned citizen, but now as a journalist. I asked the parking-encorcement shift supervisor if I could have his name, and if it was Parking Enforcement's intention to disregard the information I had provided about the confusing, new no-parking policy at Melrose Alley (click the play arrow at the bottom of the video image above to see what I mean about confusing signs and the red curb), and ticket everyone parked there anyway.
His answer: "I'm the shift supervisor; that's all you need to know. I'm not authorized to talk to the media." With that Mr. Supervisor hung up the phone. I called back, but my call went directly to voicemail. I left a message, but have yet to get a call back.
By my arithmetic, there were about $2500-$3000 in potential parking citations at the time I decided to move my car. If citations were being issued all night and day--all weekend in fact--the City of West Hollywood may have raked in many thousands of dollars--perhaps more than $10,000--courtesy of Parking Enforcement and their dubious citation policies.